Rock you like a Hurricane part 1

Our ten-year anniversary trip to the World was a world of firsts for the wife and I: First solo trip, first Food and Wine, first stay at our DVC home, first trip without kids, and first time vacationing during a hurricane warning.  Hurricane Mathew was bearing down on Florida and the entire east coast.  My home state of SC was preparing for coastal evacuations and my place of work put us all on alert.  We could have stayed home (contemplated it actually…but no, we are stubborn and really needed a vacation.

The trip was planned for Wednesday, October 5th to Sunday, October 9th and already the week had thrown about 6,534 monkey wrenches into the spokes of our plans…the vacation was in jeopardy.  My kid’s schools were canceled and grandma couldn’t take off work to watch kids all day.  Enter other grandma and cousins.  They stepped up and took on the challenge that is an 8-year-old and hyper-active 4-year-old with special needs. On the day of departure, the good governor of South Carolina planned on reversing I-95 at 3:00pm, that’s ok, we would be out of the state by then.  The kicker: the wife and I have jobs that are considered essential during natural disasters.  Both us received emails from our respected work places telling us that every one is on alert and to not make any plans.  In a panic we called our supervisors and was informed that since we put in for vacation time that we would be ok.

Our departure time was adjusted due to the ‘no school thing’.  Instead of dropping the boys off at school at 7:30 and leaving after, we had to wait for the grandma to come over and we didn’t leave until about 9.  No biggie, we could adjust.  The commute down was uneventful, and thank Thor we didn’t run into any heavy traffic on the south bound side of 95! We arrived in the world around 3:30, and by the time we settled in at the Polynesian, we had missed 2 of our Hollywood Studios’ Fastpasses. The decision was made to ‘phone it in’ on park time and just went to the new and improved outdoor shopping mall, I mean, Disney Springs.


October 6th, 2016 is a day that will never be forgotten.  The wife and I awoke and prepared for a day at Epcot.  The weather was not bad: Cloudy, windy and a little rain.  Hurricane Matthew was about 40 miles off the coast of Florida and was predicted not to make land fall. We arrived in Epcot and headed over to purchase a stroller for the day.  Then we realized that we didn’t have the kids with us, smiled and continued on our way.  Now, I was happy to be in Epcot and was ready to hit the attractions; but I was excited for my first ever Food and Wine Festival and the time in Future World was just some filler until World Showcase opened up.  The rain had started to get a little heavier and high quality Disney umbrellas were purchased.  We rode Soarin’ a few times, enjoyed Living with the Land and Spaceship Earth. We then made our way over to Test Track…but who are we kidding, it was raining.

11:00 am hit, World Showcase had opened, and my first ever Food and Wine Festival had commenced.  The plan was to take it slow, hit all the places that I wanted to first, then wander around and say, “that looks good.”  We would eat until  we got full, take a break, then hit Le Cellier for dinner.  If timed just right, when we exited Le Cellier we would hopefully walk right into the beginning of Illuminations

Well, all was going to plan until I hit my first station.  I walked into the Craft Beer pavilion and ordered my flight of beers.  As I was trying to pick up 3 beers in a holder without spilling it, I noticed Cast Members huddled around.  I didn’t give it much attention, maybe it was a last-minute “Do it for Walt!” kinda pep talk.  The team leader or manager was not talking loud, but loud enough to where I could make out some mumbles.  Then I heard the words that will haunt me till the day I die, “be prepared to close early tonight, and come in late tomorrow.”  I panicked, and didn’t realize that I was staring at the team blatantly eavesdropping.  The team leader asked “anything else, sir?” I told her I was fine, but that was a cold-hearted lie.  I was not fine.  I was scared.

I exited the Craft Beer pavilion and found my bride and informed her of the impending doom.  She went to the powder room to prepare for what was to come.  As I was waiting, I downed my 3, 2 ounce pours of craft deliciousness and saw a Cast Member.  I asked, “is it true that y’all (I say y’all) are closing early?”  He replied with a smile, “yes sir. probably around 5.” I gave the gentleman my thanks with a smile.  The wife and reunited and made a game plan. She was bummed due to the early closing eliminating our Le Cellier ADR. Instead of strolling casually through Epcot, we would hit the place with purpose.  No unnecessary stopping, no time to savor and no time to take pictures.  We wanted to be done by 4 pm to beat the stampede at 5.  We headed towards the Mexico Pavilion and began to journey.

This is where it gets sad.  I cannot to this day recall in detail what I ate.  I know we stopped at the American Pavillion and had the seafood thing, and a waffle delight from the Belgium kiosk.  But all I can say was, it was good…we didn’t have a bad dish.  Unfortunately due to the speed and lack of note taking and ‘social mediaing’ our finds, I just don’t remember the fine details of my first ever Food and Wine Festival.  As mentioned before, we started out at Mexico and ended in Canada.  And when we were at about Norway, the loud speakers stopped playing music and an announcer confirmed: “Disney Parks will be closing at 5 pm today (Thursday) and will not be open until 8 am Saturday.” Once the World Showcase Lap was completed, we just decided to head back to the Poly.  We had plenty of time to make it back through and get go to the kiosks that we missed, but what was the point?  We just wanted to get out of there.  So we boarded our bus of sadness and headed to our room.


By the time we got back to the Poly, the winds had picked up and the rain became a little more heavier.  The lobby was a buzz with activity.  We sludged back to our room and changed out of our wet clothes.  The little red message button on our phone was blinking, mocking us.  The nice lady on the other line again mention that the parks will be closed on Friday and that there was a 11:00 pm curfew for all resort guests on Oct 6 and we would essentially be on lock down on Friday until further notice.  That is right, confined to our room until the Mouse decided it was safe for us to venture out.  What a great vacation.

Well, this ends Part 1 of our ten-year anniversary dream vacation.  On the next episode you will get a glimpse into the mind of a man trapped inside the Happiest Place on Earth.

runDisney Rookie Year: Going All In


  1. (noun) the action or movement of a runner 
  2. (adj) Denoting something that runs
  3. (verb) movement of a speed faster than a walk

Any way you slice it, defining ‘running‘ is the perfect antithesis to me. I am 6’4″ and ALL of 250 lbs, but thought 2016 would be a great year to: 1. Get in shape, and 2. Try out this runDisney phenomenon. My family are all runners, and the kids have both been competitive at cross country…so I’ve always wanted to join in on their misery…sorry, “joy”. 

Full disclosure: I’ve played sports my whole life…so I’m not opposed to short bursts of running for a reason , but never was a fan of ‘jogging’ (I think it’s pronounced ‘yogging’ with a soft ‘j’). Being an avid Disney fan, I’m always looking for my next new experience…runDisney was always on my radar.

Testing the waters: Princess 5K

Rare characters like Tourist Genie from Aladdin make it special (I forgive him for stepping on my foot)
First up was the Disney Princess Half-Marathon Weekend (Feb.). I’ve run a few 5K’s, so this was a distance that wasn’t too intimidating (even though the feminine title was). Getting up early was a different story…here’s how the math plays out: 

  • 5K start time: 6 am
  • Walk to corrals: 5 am
  • Unload from buses (long, cold walk) and go through security: 4:30 am
  • Load bus at resort: 4:10 am 
  • Bus stop at resort: 3:50 am
  • Wake, getting ready and eat small breakfast: 2:30 am

That’s right…2:30 am!! Now this is just the 5K. Roll back all times for 10K and 1/2 marathon which start at 5:30 am. This is definitely a labor of love for runDisney fans. 

Running through EPCOT at dawn though was sublime

Turning to the Dark Side Challenge

When Disney announced the Star Wars runDisney events (Light Side in Disneyland, Dark Side at WDW), the little fanboy in me did something totally insane: I signed up for my first runDisney ‘Challenge’. A ‘Challenge’ is generally defined by Disney as 2-5 runs with special medals for each completion. For the Dark Side Challenge (April), the runs consisted of 10K and 1/2 marathon (Sat., Sun.). Keep in mind, I had never run more than a 5K and I was attempting successive runs of 10K  and 1/2 marathons! I was dealing with an injury on top of it all…but somehow I pulled it off!

For the inaugural 10K Star Wars run at WDW, I decided to cosplay. I was Boba Fett’s Waterboy (crossover from the Adam Sandler character). I even went as far as having a legit water back-pack with not one but two paper cup dispensers (I was proud of this costume).

Who designed a customized Boba Fett themed shoe from Adidas: THIS GUY!
 Sure, it was an amazing experience…one might even say “Once in a lifetime”, because I don’t ever plan to do another challenge again! I ended up losing 3 toenails, had swollen knees for a week, and had to get a steroid shot in my foot when it was all over. They can take my toenails…but they can’t take my memories.
Did this happen? It already feels like light years away

Superheroes are Superest at Disneyland

Finally, I was told by many runDisney enthusiasts that the coup de grâce of runDisney is at Disneyland…so that’s where we went for the Superheroes Weekend (Nov.). Word of caution: to be able to fully enjoy the advantages of running at Disneyland, it is to stay onsite and preferably at the Disneyland Hotel which is NOT cheap. The Disneyland Hotel not only hosts the Runners Expo (where you have to go for your bib, shirt, etc.), but also is about 300 yards from the start and finish of the races! Remember the times I quoted earlier from a typical WDW race…well, we strolled out of our hotel to walk over at 5:00 am for our 5:30 am race.  Plus, we were still on central time which felt like 7:00 am…not bad at all.

No time for characters, but plenty of time for selfies

The Disneyland runDisney event was everything positive we had heard and more. For the 10K we ran through both parks and Downtown Disney and it was full of amazing sights and sounds throughout. We had a later corral, so we weren’t able to do any meets with characters…but that’s OK, I’m not even a big Marvel fan…just running through these pinnacles of Disney theme park master work was reward enough. 

I have a tempered expectation with runDisney now. On one hand, it’s an exclusive Disney experience offering a rare glimpse inside the empty parks with often rare and exciting characters. On the other hand, they are VERY expensive, often held on off-peak times as a scheduling stop-gap (conflicting with school schedules), are mostly SUPER early morning events (not a morning person). The biggest complaint coming from a Disney theme park geek, the runs cut into my theme park touring energy budget. All this being true, we will eventually do another event…there’s a good chance it will be Disneyland, but don’t count out another Star Wars run from a Star Wars geek 😉

Bonus: all the free ice you want at the end of the races

Highway in the sky. Worth it?

The new Highway in the Sky Dine-Around gives guests priority boarding on the monorail for an unparalleled dining journey around the circuit between Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort and Disney’s Contemporary Resort. (credit Disney Parks blog)  But is it worth the 150 dollar price tag?  That is the question.  With all the add-ons being introduced by Disney lately, many people are screaming “enough is enough” and “just another money grab.”  I tend to agree that the add-ons are a little much lately but this one I truly believe is worth it.

Lets break it down:  Stop 1.  The Wave of American Flavors at the Contemporary for a welcome specialty cocktail.  Specialty cocktails at The Wave average $10.55.


Back onto the Monorail, with priority seating I might add, heading to the Poly for island inspired sips and appetizers.  I went to Kona for these next prices just as a way to compare since it didn’t say specifically where.  Average Kona cocktail is $10.75 and average appetizer $8.99.  As we can see the price is climbing a bit already.

Back onto the Monorail to the flagship resort: The Grand Floridian.  Enjoy an entree and wine pairing at Citricos.  Average price for an entree at Citricos is $40.25 and with a wine pairing add about 10 dollars.  After dinner you will sip sparkling wine and sample artisanal cheese.  Sparkling wine is $11.75 and the Cheese board at Citricos goes for $18.  Lets cut that in half to 9 dollars.

Photo Credit: Disney 
One more time on the monorail for a trip back to the Contemporary for desert, cordials and coffee in time to see Wishes.  Wishes Dessert Party at Tomorrowland Terrace goes for 40 dollars.

Lets do the math:

$10.55  The Wave


$8.99    Kona




$9.00     Citricos

$40.00   Dessert Party

$20.00  Valet Parking

Grand Total:  $151.26:   That is taking the averages of what you are getting and not adding gratuity or taxes.  Once you add gratuity, taxes and valet parking you are well over $150 if you were doing this on your own.  For the $150 price tag for this special event that Disney is offering, the gratuity is included but tax is not. Maybe I am just drinking the Disney “Kool-Aid” but to me there is some great value here.  I believe that this experience would be great for an anniversary or birthday for a couple.  I could also see a group of friends getting together to do this.  Maybe a Mickey Dudes meet up??   This experience is being offered Tuesday, Friday and Saturdays  starting December 2.   For reservations, 407-WDW-DINE.  If anyone does this let us know how it is.